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Postmodernism in Education  

Marek Tesar, Andrew Gibbons, Sonja Arndt, and Nina Hood

The period of postmodernism refers to a diverse set of ideas, practices, and disciplines that came to prominence in the later 20th century. It is the overarching philosophical project that responds to and critiques the principles of modernity and challenges the established ways of thinking. It opposes the ideas that it is possible to rationalize life through narrow, singular disciplinary thinking or through the establishment of a universal truth and grand narratives that strive for the value-neutral homogeneity that defined Enlightenment thinking. Postmodernism questions ontological, epistemological, and ethical conventions, and it opens up possibilities for multiple discourses and accepting marginalized and minority thoughts and practices. Openness to diversity is a key outcome of the multiplicities arising in postmodernity across a range of fields, including, among others, art, education, philosophy, architecture, and economics. Through its rejection of the totalizing effects of metanarratives and their intentions to achieve universal truths, goals, outcomes, and sameness, the postmodern condition opens an ethical responsibility toward otherness, to allow for diversity, and thus to elevate those who have been subjugated or marginalized in modernity. Postmodernism has been playing a significant role in what sometimes is termed the equity approach in education. While postmodernism may be eventually overtaken by other “posts”—post-qualitative, post-truth, post-digital—it still remains an important part of philosophy of education scholarship and broader understandings and conceptualizations of education.


Postmodern Curriculum  

Karen A. Krasny and Patrick Slattery

Postmodernism is a mid-20th-century response to 18th-century Enlightenment rationality. As a movement that developed across a diverse range of disciplines, it is not so much defined by a distinct chronology but rather is predicated on a recognition of the past and has come to represent a way of operating. The late Italian semiotician and writer Umberto Eco argued from an ideological point of view that every period in history has had its postmodernism. Architect and critical theorist Charles Jencks further polemicized postmodernism as a specific form of cultural resistance. In his view, postmodernism operates as a communicative set of values to address the needs of a society, and he cites architecture’s response to the pressing need for mass housing and large-scale urban redevelopment as an example of postmodern innovation. Inspired by postmodernism as a critical movement in the arts, architecture, and philosophy, postmodern curriculum similarly works to reject the universalizing ideals of modernity. It shares Jencks’s polemic stance and would have us reimagine the literal and metaphorical bricks and mortar of schools, colleges, and universities to advance a broader understanding of curriculum with the aim of addressing the need to provide fair and equitable access to education. The postmodern notion that the past has everything to do with the present is central to decolonizing efforts aimed at acknowledgment and reconciliation of the devastating and oppressive ends of curriculum as institutions. For example, government-sponsored residential schools in Canada and the United States stand as a glaring example of the abject failure of modern education to embrace the communicative ideals of postmodernism in its response to First Nations people. Postmodern curriculum is committed to a decentering and challenging agenda aimed at exposing and undermining master narratives of truth, language, knowledge, and power. Dynamic and responsive, postmodern curriculum’s holistic and ecological approach to education works to dissolve the artificial boundary between the outside community and the classroom to celebrate and honor the interconnectedness of knowledge, experience, international and local communities, the natural world, and life itself.


Gender and Technologies of Embodiment  

Heather Greenhalgh-Spencer

Defining gender through the exploration of technologies of embodiment opens the door for analysis of the ways that gender functions in our complex world. While there are multiple scholars that analyze gender and embodiment, that scholarship falls short when it either erases or creates too heavy a boundary around what it means to be gendered and embodied. There are several key scholars that draw attention to the ways that gender, and technologies of gender, enflesh our understanding of how gender operates. These key scholars include Donna Haraway, Judith Butler, Elizabeth Grosz, Robert McRuer, Irene Dankelman, and Chandra Mohanty. Donna Haraway, Judith Butler, and others tend to enact an erasure of physical bodies by either insisting on a subversion of physicality and the physical in general, or defining physical embodiment so narrowly that some embodied experiences suffer an elision. In the desire to erase boundaries of normativity and essentialism, Haraway and Butler erase the physical and material lived experiences of embodiment. These positions do not get at the complex nature of embodiment. On the other hand, the works of Elizabeth Grosz, Robert McRuer, Irene Dankelman, and Chandra Mohanty reflect the complexities, localizations, and materialities of gendered embodiment. These scholars argue for resistance to oppressive societal norms, ideologies, and practices, while also highlighting the eminent physicality of embodiment, as well as its contingent positionality in society.


Dynamics of Decision Making  

JoAnn Danelo Barbour

The past and the future influence the present, for decision makers are persuaded by historical patterns and styles of decision making based on social, political, and economic context, with an eye to planning, predicting, forecasting, in a sense, “futuring.” From the middle to the late 20th century, four models (rational-bureaucratic, participatory, political, and organized anarchy) embody ways of decision making that provide an historical grounding for decision makers in the first quarter of the 21st century. From the late 20th through the first two decades of the 21st century, decision makers have focused on ethical decision making, social justice, and decision making within communities. After the first two decades of the 21st century, decision making and its associative research is about holding tensions, crossing boundaries, and intersections. Decision makers will continually hold the tension between intuition and evidence as drivers of decisions. Promising research possibilities may include understanding metacognition and its role in decision making, between individual approaches to decision making and the group dynamic, stakeholders’ engagement in communicating and executing decisions, and studying the control of who has what information or who should have it. Furthermore, decision making most likely will continue to evolve towards an adaptive approach with an abundance of tools and techniques to improve both the praxis and the practice of decision making dynamics. Accordingly, trends in future research in decision making will span disciplines and emphases, encompassing transdisciplinary approaches wherein investigators work collaboratively to understand and possibly create new conceptual, theoretical, and methodological models or ways of thinking about and making decisions.


Theories of Educational Leadership  

Gabriele Lakomski and Colin W. Evers

From its beginnings in the 1940s, leadership research has been conducted as a scientific activity, with the aim of discovering the essence of leadership that, once found, would provide social–organizational benefits. However, no essence has been discovered, and research continues undeterred. Leadership theories old and new rely on the conception of science, known as logical empiricism, to support their claims. The identification of logical empiricism with science, however, is a mistake as empiricism is no longer considered valid, a mistake perpetuated in contemporary education leadership theories that present their accounts as alternatives to science. A better account of science, “naturalistic coherentism,” is able to advance the theory and practice of education leadership by growing knowledge, not by denying it.